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Crossbow talk brings both sides together

Hunting activities and gear options spark lively discussions among hunters and non-hunters alike. But one mechanism triggers more high-strung discussion than all other hunting devices the crossbow.

Legislation last year finally legalized its use during big game seasons not open to archery hunting in much of New York State. While some hunters took advantage of the new season, considerable debate continued as to legalizing the crossbow for use during other game seasons and the early archery season.

State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan received much input from a variety of sources on crossbow legalization issues -- particularly of season setting and use designation -- that he and his staff arranged for a "Sportsmen and Crossbow Roundtable," which was held at Allied Sportsman's Club on Clinton Street in Alden Thursday evening.

Rain, not snow or high winds, could not dampen spirited attendance at the Allied clubhouse. When discussion began, 128 visitors had signed in, other onlookers put total attendance at 150 to 160 people at this well-managed gathering.

Despite the many, varied, strongly-held opinions, beliefs, and presumptions visitors and presenters brought to this roundtable, discussions were polite, respectful, and informative throughout more than two hours of presentations.

As with virtually all political and social discussions, participants did not head home that evening with totally changed attitudes and assumptions about issues. But Sen. Gallivan and fellow legislators brought together nine selected speakers and about a dozen audience commentators who brought to light facts and feelings about the sport of hunting, the functions of this shooting device and the people who love and hope to perpetuate their outdoors pursuits.

Gallivan noted at the start that all spoken remarks and submitted documents would be recorded and accepted in a hearing format. Accompanying him were three legislators: Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin (R-C-I, Clarence); Assemblyman John D. Ceretto (R-Niagara Falls); and a representative for Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo).

Larry Becker, with the Wyoming County Wildlife Federation, stressed that the crossbow is a bow composed of archery equipment, with limbs and a string that fires arrows. Becker asserted that a vertical bow may not be effective for all impaired bow shooters. He concluded with figures showing crossbow use in 23 states during archery seasons without problems and a wish that opening archery seasons to crossbow hunters will go without conflict.

Chuck Godfrey, Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs president, presented data similar to Becker's findings. Godfrey noted that 25 to 30 clubs voiced support for crossbows, with opposition from just three or four affiliate clubs. As for season setting, he would like to see the DEC regulate seasons.

Stephen Aldstadt, New York State SCOPE President, said hunters in New York want to hunt with the crossbow during seasons, citing a similar situation in Pennsylvania. Aldstadt pointed out that Pennsylvania Game Commission officials this past week had approved crossbow use during archery seasons in that state prior to a sunset provision like the one hunters face in New York State.

Robert Keicher, past president and board member with Safari Club International, underscored Aldstadt's remarks, noting New York too often follows game/hunting regulations passed for Pennsylvania hunters. Keicher also emphasized lost revenue from license sales and purchases as the result of a small but vocal minority in the anti-crossbow faction.

Dave Kosowski, a New York Bowhunters director, stated that he is not opposed to current crossbow regulations; however, he is appalled at the lack of education provided to those applying for a crossbow hunting license. Kosowski stressed the use of an assist mechanism for vertical bows rather than crossbows.

Gary Socola, past president of New York Bowhunters, pointed out his own numerous physical setbacks and how he has adapted for decades as a bow hunter without the use of a crossbow. Socola went on to assert that crossbow support was mainly in Western New York and not statewide. He noted those groups had few numbers in eastern areas.

Dale Dunkelberger, Conservation Fund Advisory Board Member, cited legal use of crossbows during archery seasons in all states and provinces surrounding New York. "It's definitely time to legalize crossbows," Dunkelberger said, stressing that it should be a hunter's choice. He noted a Michigan season start in 2010 resulted in 96,000 more licenses sold and a $32 million increase in hunting gear sales that year.

Linda Grace, with Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America, supports the use of crossbow use by impaired hunters, noting that 38 states allow injured archers crossbow use during archery seasons.

Kevin Armstrong, past president of New York Bowhunters, asserted that a crossbow is not a bow. Armstrong said, "I believe that bow hunting should be done the hard way. New York Bowhunters take it seriously."

Overall, a feeling prevailed that this issue should not continue to pit hunters against fellow hunters.

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Sen. Gallivan will continue to accept written remarks on crossbow issues until Friday. Email comments to: gallivan@nysenate.gov.

email: odrswill@gmail.com